Barnsley's players have been given two options to change their pay during the coronavirus lockdown by chief executive Dane Murphy, captain Alex Mowatt has revealed to the Chronicle.
Mowatt, and fellow senior players Cauley Woodrow and Kenny Dougall, have been leading negotiations as the Reds, like many clubs, look to cut costs during a period of no matchday income. The options put to them by Murphy, acting on behalf of co-chairman Chien Lee and Paul Conway, are a deferral of wages until later in the year or a temporary reduction in salaries.
Mowatt told the Chronicle: “Me, Kenny and Cauley are reps for the lads and we’ve been on the phone with Dane. He has sent us an offer of two different options that he wants the boys to look at. We are starting to negotiate that now and we’ll have to see what the outcome is. He’s told us to speak about it this week then come back with something that we would like. Maybe we will be able to do something. A lot of teams are doing it, taking deferrals and paycuts. But we’re probably the lowest paid players in the Championship and the players at other clubs who are doing it are on more money than us.”
The Reds announced last Friday that they had put ‘certain staff across all departments’ on furlough leave, with the government paying 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 a month. They are now looking to trim the expenditure on the first team squad. The EFL and PFA have recommended that players in League One and League Two agree a wage deferral of up to 25 per cent for April. But there has been no official advice for clubs in the Championship, in which wagebills vary wildly with Barnsley’s thought to be among the lowest.
Mowatt said: “We have made the point that Barnsley are probably the lowest-payers in the Championship and the owners are in a really good situation, not in debt like other clubs. With selling players last summer, we have got a lot of money. It’s not as bad as for a lot of other clubs.”
The season could now extend well into the summer. Mowatt is out of contract on June 30, but the Reds are expected to take their option of extending the deal for another year and hope their captain signs a longer extension on new terms. He told the Chronicle: “The club has an option so, if they take that up, then I will still be in contract. We started talks about a new contract before all of this happened but it’s gone quiet now. The main thing is everybody’s health then, when we get back to football, we’ll see what happens.”
The Reds – who would have been due to host Nottingham Forest tomorrow in their final home game of the season – are seven points from safety at the bottom of the Championship, which has been paused with nine games remaining. Barnsley are waiting for more clarity on the EFL and FA’s plans to conclude the season, after clubs were advised not to train before May 16 and that the season could be played behind closed doors within eight weeks. The EFL and FA want the season to finish but, if it cannot, then the options are thought to be declaring it ‘null and void’ like most non-league divisions, or treating the current standings as final which would relegate the Reds.
Mowatt: “If they offered to finish the season now so we could stay in the Championship next year, everyone would take it. Maybe it would feel a bit like we got away with it, but we’d be in the Championship next season then we’d carry on as normal. If we played the nine games and stayed up, it would be better but, with how things are going at the moment, you never know. We want to finish the season so it is fair and, if it has to be behind closed doors, then we’ll have to do it but it will be very strange and different with no fans. If they finish the season as it is, and we go down, that would be gutting. We have shown we can go on winning runs and we might be able to win six or seven of the last nine. If we were to be relegated now, it would be really disappointing and really unfair.”
Mowatt, who lives in his hometown of Doncaster, is happy with the lockdown routine he has created but admits boredom is a problem. He said: “I have been trying to stay in a routine. I set my alarm for the same time as if I was in training. I go on the bike for a while then do some running and gymwork. I have a gym at my house so I have put everything in the garden with the weather being nice. There is a field near my house where I have been doing running. When you are setting loads of cones out, people give you funny looks but there haven’t been that many people around. “The hardest thing is on the days when I have been resting. It’s the boredom of not doing anything.”
One way the Reds’ skipper has found to alleviate the boredom is by representing the club in a FIFA video game tournament against players from other clubs. He lost the first match 5-1 but blamed that on having the wrong settings on his Xbox. He said: “The boys have battered me for that on the group chat. But none of them dare play so I had to play for them.”
Mowatt began his career at Leeds United before moving to Barnsley, the same career path as Elland Road and Oakwell legend Norman Hunter who died last week. Mowatt said: “It was definitely sad. You can see how popular he was by everybody’s reaction. I have met him before, because he did a lot of work at Leeds. It was really sad and disappointing that he lost his life to coronavirus.”